Political Prisoner ‘Freed’ by Cuba Deal on Day 81 of Prison Hunger Strike
by FRANCES MARTEL 31 Dec 2015
Vladimir Morera Bacallao, a Cuban dissident allegedly freed as part of
President Obama’s deal with Cuba but sentenced to four years in prison
shortly after being released, is currently on his 81st day of a hunger
strike that has left him in critical condition.
“He does not recognize us,” his wife told the U.S.-based Martí noticias,
and is in extremely grave condition in a hospital in Villa Clara. He
reportedly weighs 93 pounds, and relatives expressed little hope for his
survival. “He is very grave… [but] they say he is a prisoner so we are
not allowed to see him,” Morera’s sister told AFP.
Morera was arrested in April for hanging a sign on his window condemning
the communist Castro dictatorship. The sign read “I vote for my freedom,
and not in one of those elections where I can’t even choose a
president.” The sign was mocking Cuba’s legislative elections, in which
only Communist Party officials are allowed to compete. After his second
arrest, family members described the incident, noting that his children
and wife were also beaten by state police.
Morera had been freed in January from prison, where he was serving an
eight-year sentence for defending a fellow dissident from a violent
communist mob, as part of President Obama’s “normalization” deal with
Cuba. International supporters of the Cuban government and human rights
groups that oppose isolating the Castro regime celebrated the liberation
of 53 political prisoners that months as a sign that President Obama’s
attempt to make concessions to the regime would help dissidents. Most of
those dissidents, however, have been rearrested for crimes similar to
Morera’s act of disobedience.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner issued a statement saying the
United States is “profoundly concerned” for Morera’s health.
In the year since President Obama announced that the United States would
make a series of concessions to dictator Raúl Castro, including removing
Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, in exchange for, in
the words of Castro, “nothing at all,” the situation for political
dissidents has deteriorated significantly. In addition to the re-arrests
of dozens of prisoners of conscience, leaders of dissident groups such
as the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and the Ladies in White (Damas
de Blanco) are arrested on an almost weekly basis, most for attending
Sunday Catholic Mass. Political arrests increased by 70 percent between
January and March 2015 in the immediate aftermath of the announcement.
The announcement also triggered a flood of Cuban refugees attempting to
flee to Central America, fearing that the Obama administration would
repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows the federal government to
treat all Cubans as political refugees. About 8,000 Cuban nationals are
currently stranded in Costa Rica after relying on a human trafficking
ring shut down by the Costa Rican government.
Morera previously survived a 68-day hunger strike in April 2014, which
he was forced to end after doctors found a tumor in his stomach.
Dissidents using Twitter have reported that a congregation of
anti-communist activists that had gathered in front of the hospital
currently treating Morera have been violently arrested.
Five Cuban dissidents arrested outside hospital where political
prisoner, Vladimir Morera Bacallao, is near death.
1:23 AM – 31 Dec 2015
Source: Political Prisoner ‘Freed’ by Cuba Deal on Hunger Strike –